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The Lorraine

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Intending to use pictures or text from this page? Please read this notice. Last modify 29 December 2004.

These photographs were taken of the actual Lorraine (really this time ^^) at Vintage Computer Festival 6.0, October 2003; an early Amiga developer prototype made near the end of 1984, as exhibited at VCF 4.0, September 2000; and concept sketches of the production Lorraine exhibited with it at VCF 4. These units and sketches are owned by ex-Amiga engineer Dale Luck; alas, none of them are functional currently.

Images of the Lorraine (.jpg)
Peace Board: Portrait (82K), Close-Up (87K), Board Notation (50K) | War Board: Portrait Left (67K), Portrait Right (72K), Board Notation (8K) | Agony: Portrait (28K), Notes and Bad Sectors (49K) | Agnus and Daphne Arrays (73K)

Images of the "Amiga PC" Developer Prototype (.jpg)
Portrait (63K) | Ports Closeup (47K) | Daphne and Agnus IC Arrays (110K)

Concept Sketches of the Lorraine (.jpg)
Concept 1 (33K) | Concept 2 (39K) | Concept 3 (41K) | Concept 4 (33K) | Concept 5 (39K)

Introduced Summer CES 1984
Hardware 68000 @ 7.16MHz?, 128K RAM (surmised max 8MB), 64K ROM -- original models loaded the "ROM" from disk.
Graphics and Sound Generated by the famous "Agnus" (animation), Paula (sound and ports, later Portia), and Daphne (graphics, later Denise) trio of custom logic arrays, later turned into production ICs. Four-channel stereo sound; 640x400x4096 maximum resolution (most likely "Initial Chipset" or "ICS" graphics -- same as "Original Chipset" or OCS, but no 64 colour half-bright mode [also in very early Agnus chips, hence the assumption]). Just to note: to get all 4096 colours on screen requires HAM graphics and lower resolutions.
Eventual Fate Released as the Amiga 1000 in 1985.

Some corrections and observations courtesy Ville Jouppi.

As noted in the Excruciating History, the Lorraine project started with a California company called Hi-Toro that had big ideas for developing a new game machine (and for the fate of the company and Commodore's involvement, see that section in the History). The resulting device, based on the Motorola 68000, incorporated custom graphics and sound technology on a calibre never before seen on a home computer-class architecture.

Two stages of the Lorraine are shown here, the "Peace" and "War" boards. War is the later(?) of the two, dating from December 1983. A number of interesting landmarks are visible, particularly on Peace, which shows the CPU and Portia (Paula) attachment site. Both boards had interconnects to the Agnus and Daphne boards; the Agnus and Daphne boards are actually the original prototypes before their redesign into chips, the centrepieces of the original Lorraine's revolutionary multimedia power, and are arrays of PCBs with logic ICs on them that would later be distilled down to the familiar ICs that graced all the OCS Amiga systems. Also shown is Agony, the file server that Luck and RJ Mical used to develop the Amiga's system software, as well as the "Amiga PC" Developer Prototype, which was developed (and apparently not completed) two months before Commodore's purchase of Amiga in August 1984.

The Lorraine's first demonstration at Summer CES, according to COMPUTE! 8/84, demonstrated an intermediate feature set which, while sporting the same key innovations in graphics and media the A1000 would feature (especially the dazzling graphics abilities), obviously evolved down the line. Instead of the 256K of the A1000, the Lorraine had only 128K; it had a built-in "Apple compatible" BASIC, only 64K of ROM, a built-in 5.25" disk drive and 300bps modem, and a "cartridge" expansion slot. A "chimney" port allowed device expansion and was likely an early ancestor of the Zorro peripheral bus. However, the roughness of the prototype was not lost on COMPUTE!, who also commented that it required a remote terminal to operate. When the A1000 was eventually released, the modem and cartridge port were dropped, the 5.25" disk drives jettisoned for 3.5" versions, and the new AmigaOS was integrated instead.

History tells us, of course, that the Lorraine was the direct ancestor (ancestress?) of the Amiga 1000, introduced in 1985 to somewhat lukewarm sales compared with its elder sibling, the C64. However, as the more advanced 500 and 2000 models came out, the Amiga rapidly took off into prominence, and for years was the undisputed queen of multimedia in a world still largely populated with the anaemic colour and resolution of PC CGA. Even now the AGA display of the swan-song models paints a very pretty picture.

The concept sketches (five are shown here) are quite fascinating and reflect unique and sometimes wild ideas about how the new wonderbox should be marketed. Most of them are variations on a three-tier design, and most have little resemblance to the A1000, or, for that matter, the Lorraine or Amiga PC themselves. Only sketch 5 has a 3.5" disk drive, which the A1000 eventually sported; the others carry 5.25" drives just like the original Lorraine. Interestingly, all except sketch 4 have cartridges prominently shown, indicating the machine's original pedigree as a game system, and Ville also pointed out that all of the concept sketches seem to expand by stacking additional units on top, not on the side like the production Amiga. The chronological order of the sketches or their artist(s) is not known.

The ports in the closeup of the Amiga PC Developer Prototype are labeled, going left to right, KYBD (keyboard), DISK, PARALLEL, CART, TV (presumably RF output), COMP (composite output), STEREO L and R (audio output) and RGB.

The Lorraine is directly responsible for the demise of Commodore's most significant foray into the server line, the unusual CBM 900. Commodore dropped the CBM 900 shortly after acquiring Amiga/Hi-Torro, a big disappointment to Unix enthusiasts like myself who would have loved to have a real Commodore server.

Unlike the other custom chips which were christened with women's monikers, the Agnus chip is not a corruption of the name Agnes (as I had previously thought), but rather, according to Jim Williams, Jay Miner named it Agnus from the Latin expression agnus dei ('lamb of God').